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NBA Finals Since We Saw Them Last: Celtics

While the Celtics hold the edge over the Lakers in overall Finals matchups by an 8-2 margin, the Lakers have far and away been the more dominant team over the past two plus decades, winning four titles and only missing the playoffs twice. Lakers.com gives you a special edition of our Since We Saw Them Last, chronicling the defining moments and changes endured by L.A.’s biggest rival since they last faced Boston in the 1987 NBA Finals.

The Lakers second NBA Finals victory over the Celtics in the 1987-1988 NBA Finals officially began the downfall of a once glorious Boston team. With Larry Bird bowing out to injury just six games into the 1988-89 season, the Celtics were forced to play through an uncharacteristic 42 win season.

Although the Celtics improved in the following two seasons, buoyed by the addition of rookie guard Dee Brown and the return of Brian Shaw, they were eliminated prematurely in the playoffs both seasons, first by New York and then by Detroit in 1991.

Despite serious injuries to Bird and Kevin McHale, the Celtics won their division the following year, but again were unable to come through in the playoffs, losing to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

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Lakers vs. Celtics Season Series Recap

Lakers.com takes a look back the historic rivals’ two regular season meetings this year. Both teams will have a decidedly different look when they meet in Boston this Thursday, with the Celtics picking up savvy veterans Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown to join in their championship run and the Lakers making an even bigger splash by acquiring Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol to help fill the void left by Andrew Bynum’s injury.

November 23: Lakers 94, Boston 107
Boston jumped out to a quick 25-16 lead at the end of the first quarter and the Lakers were unable to recover, trailing by 18 at halftime in an eventual 94-107 loss. The Celtics’ vaunted “Big Three” were on full display in the early-season tilt, combining for 59 points, led by 21 points and 11 rebounds from newcomer Kevin Garnett.

Young center Kendrick Perkins also turned in a surprising 21 point, nine rebound performance. Kobe led the way in scoring for L.A. with 28, but only Vladimir Radmanovic managed to score more than 18 points in what was another display of the then 10-1 Celtics’ dominance in the first half of the season.

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WCF Recap: What Went Right/Wrong

Before the Lakers take on the Celtics in the NBA Finals, we take a look back at what worked and what didn’t for the purple and gold in their successful four games to one take down of the Defending Champion San Antonio Spurs.

What Went Right:
• Just in case there were any doubters left out there regarding Kobe’s MVP candidacy, #24 answered their questions and then some, averaging a team-high 29 points while putting the Lakers on his back in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s series-clinching game.

• After emerging as arguably the Spurs’ most important player on offense this season, the injury-ravaged Manu Ginobili fell flat on his face for most of the series against the Lakers, only mustering 13 points on a forgettable 36% shooting from the floor. While Ginobili may not have been completely healthy, the Lakers’ defense deserves at least some of the credit for his ineffectiveness.

• As a team, the Lakers held the Spurs to just 88 points per game in the series’ five games–a stark contrast to their lackluster defensive efforts against the Nuggets and Jazz in previous rounds.

• Jordan Farmar awoke at just the right time for L.A., showing a night and day-like difference in confidence level compared to the Utah series. Against the Spurs, the UCLA alum averaged eight points and sparked Lakers’ rallies in pivotal victories in Games 1 and 5.

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WCF Game 4: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:
• Kobe’s steady leadership guided the Lakers throughout Game 4 as the MVP scored 28 points to lead the team. Bryant also tied Gasol for the team-high in rebounds with 10.

• After a poor showing in Game 3, Lamar Odom rebounded well in Game 4, contributing 16 points to go along with nine rebounds. Moreover, many of the forward’s points came in a pivotal fourth quarter stretch in which the Lakers seized control of the game once and for all.

• Manu Ginobili played more than 36 minutes, but was held to a measly seven points on just 2-8 shooting from the field, essentially relegating him to non-factor status for San Antonio’s offense.

• The Lakers excelled on the glass, outrebounding San Antonio by a decisive 46-37 margin, including an impressive 13-8 edge in offensive rebounds.

• Luke Walton showed signs of life after a quiet few games, scoring nine points on 4-10 shooting from the field. Similarly, Derek Fisher also rebounded for nine points on 4-7 shooting.

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WCF Game 3: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:
• Kobe led the team in scoring once again with 30, including a stretch in the fourth quarter in which he connected on four consecutive three pointers to nearly put the Lakers back in contention in a game that was quickly becoming a rout at the hands of the Spurs.

• Jordan Farmar continued his Western Conference Finals resurgence with another double-digit effort, this time scoring 10 points to lead all Lakers reserves, including 2-3 from beyond the arc.

• The Lakers showed they can handle the Spurs on the boards once again, beating the San Antonio in the rebounding department by three, 42-39, including an 8-3 edge in offensive rebounds.

• Vladimir Radmanovic played a solid all-around game, contributing nine points and nine rebounds. Moreover, the forward showed an increased willingness to drive his way to the hoop instead of simply relying on his three point shot.

• L.A. played a productive first quarter, matching San Antonio’s early intensity by outscoring them 24-21 in the first 12 minutes. However, the purple and gold were dominated in the second quarter, 28-15, giving the Spurs the lead for good.

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WCF Game 2: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:
• The Lakers outscored the Spurs, 55-34 in the second half, including a 27-14 fourth quarter that sunk San Antonio’s comeback hopes once and for all.

• Jordan Farmar continued his upward swing in Game 2, following up a solid effort in the series opener by scoring 14 points–a new playoff career high for the second year guard. As a whole, the Lakers’ bench outscored the Spurs’ reserves by a 34-26 margin.

• Unlike Game 1, the Lakers found a way to stop Tim Duncan on offense, holding the perennial All-NBA player to just 12 points. However, Duncan did manage to pull down a game-high 16 rebounds. Similarly, Tony Parker also wasn’t a big factor in Game 2, only dropping in 13 points.

• After a close game throughout the majority of the first half, L.A. mounted a charge in the final two minutes of the second quarter that turned a 37-37 tie into a nine-point halftime advantage–a lead the Lakers held onto for the rest of the night.

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LAKERS VS. SPURS: POSITION-BY-POSITION

POINT GUARD: Tony Parker vs. Derek Fisher
While the Spurs of yesteryear relied on Duncan to jumpstart their offense, these days, it’s San Antonio’s deadly backcourt combo of Parker and Ginobili that serve as the team’s primary scorers. Parker leads the defending champs in scoring through two rounds, averaging nearly 24 points a game while shooting 48% from the field. By comparison, the Lakers’ Fisher has been just as good filling his role as a steady veteran and deadeye shooter in the playoffs. Averaging over 14 points a game—fourth best on the team—Derek continues to show why he is one of the clutchest players in the game today as evidenced by his late three-point barrage in the team’s overtime loss to the Jazz in Game 4 of the Second Round. Moreover, Fisher has been a Spurs killer throughout his career. See: “0.4”

SHOOTING GUARD: Bruce Bowen vs. Kobe Bryant
Although certainly limited on offense, Bowen is a lethal defender and has a proven track record of playing well against the Lakers in the playoffs. While there is certainly not much love between Bruce and Kobe, even the Lakers MVP has given the Spurs guard credit for his defensive prowess in past playoff matchups. However, while Bowen may be able to slow Bryant down, there’s no way to stop a motivated Kobe—even with an injured back. Plus, with Bowen’s inefficiencies on offense, Bryant should be able to sag off of him, allowing him to help on Ginobili and Parker.

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Game 5: What Went Right/Wrong

What Went Right:
• Although he wasn’t overly aggressive on offense, making 6-10 shots from the field, Kobe still played his way to 26 points and drew post-game praise from Coach Jackson for letting the game come to him.
• 43 combined points for Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol who, according to Jackson and Kobe, both made “big plays” down the stretch to help L.A. remain in front of Utah in the final minutes of the game.
• The Lakers led for the entire 48 minutes, repeatedly squashing down Utah’s attempts to take the lead in the second half. As a result, any momentum gathered by the Jazz rarely lasted more than a play or two.
• The slumping Jordan Farmar and Vladimir Radmanovic both showed signs of life in Gam 5 with Farmar chipping in six timely points and Radmanovic catching fire in the first half en route to a 15 point effort.
• Whereas the Jazz have owned the boards in this series, the Lakers have excelled at getting to the free throw line, doing so again by making 34-42 in Game 5.
• The Jazz’ normally precise, well-executed offense struggled a bit in Game 5 as L.A. forced Utah into a surprising 19 turnovers.

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LAKERS VS. JAZZ: POSITION-BY-POSITION

POINT GUARD:
Deron Williams almost single-handedly ended the Rockets season in his brilliant Game 6 performance against the Rockets. Making sure he doesn’t go off in a similar manner against the Lakers is priority number one for the team. Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar both had solid series against the Nuggets, but it will take a much more concerted effort this time around if L.A. has any hope of slowing down one of the best point guards in the game.

SHOOTING GUARD:
While the Jazz have a decided advantage against the Lakers at the one spot, the Lakers have an ever greater edge at shooting guard. Kobe averaged nearly 30 points against the Jazz during the regular season and L.A. will need him to do the same against them in the Second Round. Second-year guard Ronnie Brewer will get the assignment for Utah, looking to build a successful First Round in which he averaged nine points and four rebounds a game. However, Kirilenko has also spent time guarding Bryant in past contests.

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Jazz: Season Series in Review

11/4/2007, Jazz 109, Lakers 119
In only the third game of the season, the Lakers defeated the Jazz by a healthy 10 points, using a monster 38 point fourth quarter to outscore Utah by 11 points and take the first win in the season series. Kobe had an extremely efficient 33 points on 13-19 shooting from the field, while Andrew Bynum had 15 points and nine rebounds off of the bench in just over 19 minutes of play. The Lakers won despite a combined 49 points from Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.

11/30/2007, Lakers 96, Utah 120
The Jazz got the Lakers back for their earl season victory and then some, sending L.A. home with their worst defeat of the season. Three Utah players scored at least 20 points, led by a scintillating 14-24 shooting performance from Williams. Kobe had 28 points for the Lakers and Jordan Farmar added 21, but only one other Laker (Turiaf) reached double figures.

12/28/2007, Utah 109, Lakers 123
The Lakers followed up their spectacular Christmas Day performance against the Suns by pummeling the Jazz by 14 points in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicates. Bryant led the way for the Lakers with 31 points in just over 29 minutes, followed by a near triple double from Odom, who finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

3/20/2008, Lakers 106, Utah 95
The Jazz only lost four games at home all season and the Lakers got one of them in a late-season affair despite playing without Gasol or Bynum. Lamar Odom led the way for the Lakers with 21 points and 12 rebounds to go along with Kobe’s 27. Only eight Lakers dressed, but six of them scored in double figures, effectively rendering Boozer’s 23 points and William’s 26 useless.